CLEVELAND – Like a meteor shower or a double rainbow, an offensive explosion like the one the Twins enjoyed here this week is an incredible sight to behold. But look fast — it can disappear in an instant.
So it was on Thursday, when a fill-in rookie starter and a tired but effective Cleveland bullpen shut off the fire hose of Minnesota runs. Hector Santiago’s Twins debut was an unremarkable dud, busted by a pair of long home runs, and the Indians finally fought back with a 9-2 victory at Progressive Field.
“Two bad pitches. Two cutters that kind of stayed in the middle and that’s it,” said Santiago, who allowed four runs over five innings, the biggest blow Carlos Santana’s two-out, three-run blast in the fourth inning. “Usually in that situation, I make a better pitch.”
Mike Clevinger, a 25-year-old rookie with flowing hair and a high-kick pitching motion, stanched the Twins’ scoring tsunami — 35 runs over three previous days — by limiting the damage when the Twins reached base. He gave up seven hits and four walks in just 4⅔ innings, but stranded seven runners.
Brian Dozier homered for the third consecutive game and fifth time since Sunday, but the torrent of extra-base hits with runners on base came to a halt. After piling up 26 doubles, triples and homers in the first three games, Dozier’s home run and Miguel Sano’s leadoff double in the third inning — which turned into a run on Kurt Suzuki’s RBI single — were all the Twins could muster off Clevinger. And the Indians’ bullpen, ravaged in this series until this game, held the Twins hitless over the final 4⅔ innings.
Instead, it was the Indians who bashed big hits — all four starting infielders homered, with Michael Tonkin and Tommy Milone each giving up a blast.
And if Minnesota’s clutch hitting ebbed, its recent habit of baserunning mistakes definitely didn’t. A bases-loaded chance to knock out Clevinger in the third inning was ruined when Joe Mauer misjudged a line drive to Rajai Davis in center field, straying so far off first base that he was easily doubled up. Two innings later, Mauer singled, and Max Kepler lined a hit to right that nearly hit Mauer. But Kepler didn’t notice that Mauer jogged to second and stopped, and came roaring into the base as he stood on it. Mauer was tagged out, and that rally died, too.
“Max just put his head down and [forgot that] what the guy in front of you sees is not what you see,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor, who also spoke to Mauer about not being so quick to assume he couldn’t advance. “Those were costly.”
The Twins’ lineup had a different look to it, with Molitor deciding that excluding Kennys Vargas, Byron Buxton and Robbie Grossman from the festivities wasn’t fair: “It’s fun to be part of a team that’s scoring that many runs. But the guys that are watching and not participating probably want to feel a part of it to some degree.”
They didn’t get to, not this time. That trio went 0-for-11.